Old pals prepare for business in hand

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The Independent Online
Once they had nothing more on their minds than trying to be the Tiger Woods of their day. Now if they resemble a couple of 40-plus chief executives out for a day's golf, that is exactly what they are, although it helps to be Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman when it comes to teeing up in the Peugeot Spanish Open.

Ballesteros is the boss of the event's promoters, Amen Corner, and asked Norman, head of the rapidly expanding Great White Shark Inc, to return to Madrid for the first time in 15 years as a special favour. The quid pro quo is that the Spaniard will play in Norman's Holden Classic in Australia during the winter.

"After 21 years of playing the game together, it is right that we should help each other out," the Australian said. "It is like Jack [Nicklaus] inviting Arnie [Palmer] to the Memorial, and Arnie inviting Jack to his tournament at Bay Hill."

Norman was more concerned about attending his first bullfight last night than the fact that Tom Lehman had ended his record run of 96 weeks as the world No.1. "I've been up there a long time," Norman said. "The best player right now is Tiger Woods. Like anything, golf needs young blood and new talent to come through. America was crying out for someone like Tiger. He has upped the level for everyone." Woods is only ranked at No.5, while Norman can regain the top spot by finishing in the top-ten here.

Like Norman, Ballesteros was long gone before Woods was crowned at Augusta and he has turned to the Australian's old coach, and Woods's mentor, Butch Harmon, in the hope of making his first cut of the season. "If one doctor cannot help, you try another," Seve said. He has had more second opinions than he has played rounds recently.

As the European captain, Ryder Cup matters are also on Seve's mind. He knows who he wants as a No 2 but he cannot yet name him, saying only that the candidate can speak both English and Spanish. Next week, he heads for Valderrama to help set up the course. "There will be fairway for 260 yards and then only rough," is his plan to combat Woods. He will not decide on whether to be a playing captain until he picks his two wild cards on 31 August, on which subject he repeated "there are no guarantees for anyone". For the record, Norman thinks America will win.

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